Breeders' Cup Ramblings

OK, I've finally figured it out. I have figured out how to deal with this year's and next year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita as it relates to Eclipse Awards.

After all, there are several possible scenarios this year that could have a major impact on the various championship categories. For instance, what if either Mast Track or Go Between wins the Classic, or run one-two, as they did in the Hollywood Gold Cup? Let's go one better; what if one of them wins the Pacific Classic, Goodwood, and BC Classic? That, in many cases, would be sufficient to earn Horse of the Year, especially if you also have a win in the Hollywood Gold Cup or seconds in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap, as Go Between does. But that's not going to happen. I just don't see many people voting for a synthetic surface horse for Horse of the Year no matter what they accomplish.

Regardless what these two horses do, or any horses for that matter, Curlin will be the champion older horse. Now, let's say Colonel John wins Saturday's Swaps, and then adds the Goodwood and BC Classic to go along with his win in the Santa Anita Derby. He still has no shot at the 3-year-old title, which will go to Big Brown. He will have to win the Travers and the Classic, with Big Brown losing the remainder of his races, to have a shot at it.

So, does that mean if Big Brown should happen to miss the Classic or simply doesn't handle the synthetic track, this year's Classic will prove to be a meaningless race to everyone except the winning connections and those who bet on him? Sadly, the answer is yes. That is how important Big Brown is to the Classic. How do I know this? If Go Between wins the Classic, and no disrespect to him, can anyone picture Darley, Three Chimneys, and Lane's End shoving each other out of the way trying to purchase his breeding rights?

At this point in racing history, championships should not be decided on a synthetic surface. That brings us to my brilliant idea. Considering the Breeders' Cup's ravenous appetite and how it is gorging itself on new races, and considering the addition of new Eclipse Awards to accommodate the profusion of Breeders' Cup winners, why not add several more championships to give the synthetic specialists their due?

Now, we all know a synthetic surface horse is somewhere between a dirt horse and a turf horse. These are generally second-tier turf horses, not good enough to compete at the highest level, and either second-tier dirt horses or horses who have never even laid eyes on a dirt track. Yes, there are horses like Student Council and Tiago, or the 3-year-old Gayego, who have won major stakes on both dirt and synthetic, but they are in the minority.

So, let's just say Go Between or Mast Track - two typical synthetic/turf horses - run the table the rest of the year. What do you do with them when it comes to year-end honors? Simple, you make up a new Eclipse Award. How's this? Champion Dirf Horse (that's right, something between dirt and turf). This way, they can join the long procession of 2008 Eclipse Award winners without intruding on the major award contenders like Curlin and Big Brown.

OK, so now you ask yourself, what about Colonel John, who has a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby as his only attempt on dirt? He obviously loves synthetic surfaces, but supposedly is not as good on the dirt (although I'm still not sold on that) and has never been on the turf. So, you can't give him the Dirf Award. In his case, as with others who are proven only on synthetic surfaces, we offer the Latex Award. This way, we can honor horses like Colonel John, who supposedly love only the feel of balloon fragments under their feet. But there is still the Travers to expand his horizons, and the belief here is that he handles the dirt just fine, despite the Kentucky Derby, in which he actually put in a big move around the turn.

With these awards, every horse will get his or her due, and it would allow the Breeders' Cup Classic to have at least some championship implications. And as for having a legitimate Horse of the Year showdown, Churchill Downs could then boost the purse of the Clark Handicap if they so desire. And what about the top-class milers who flop in the BC Dirt (?) Mile? They can flock to Aqueduct four weeks later for the Cigar Mile to determine who really is the best miler in the country.

Now that we've resolved that disturbing aspect of the Breeders' Cup, I have one more issue that needs to be discussed. What does John Shirreffs and Jerry and Ann Moss do about Zenyatta? They already have Tiago for the Classic, and he is capable on any given day of winning a race of that caliber. Shirreffs has already stated that running against the colts is not in the equation. But let's say Zenyatta continues her unbeaten streak, goes back to blowing away her foes, and looks invincible heading into the Breeders' Cup.

Do you run her against colts in what is likely to be a so-so field (depth-wise) in the Classic in front of a sellout crowd and highlight the best filly in the country to TV audiences around the country or do you run her on Friday in the Distaff (sorry, for blog purposes I cannot bring myself to say Ladies Classic) in front of one-third or one-half the crowd and a negligible TV audience? How many people are going to take off from work that day to come to the track or rush home to watch the races on TV?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against change, and these new changes this year could turn out just fine. I hope they do. But everything is being done so quickly and in such excess. Can't we at least wait to see how last year's changes work out on a nice sunny day as opposed to last year's disaster before smothering everyone with additional races? Here is a test the Breeders' Cup can conduct. Put five committee members in separate rooms and give them five seconds to name the winners of last year's Friday Breeders' Cup races. If they can't do it, you keep the number of Friday races the same until they can. Then, and only then, can you add more races. Better still, you can also give them an additional five seconds and have them name the new races this year. If they can't do it, scrap them until they can.

The reason I can't bring myself to say or write Ladies Classic, besides it sounding like a golf tournament, is that you already have a Classic that is open to males and females, and horses are not ladies, they are horses. Distaff designates female as much as Ladies, so why change after 24 years? What is with this new obsession to keep changing names until its political correctness makes us want to barf? Webster defines "distaff" simply as a "female," and it defines "lady" as a "woman." So, the Breeders' Cup in its divine wisdom determined that they'd rather have a race for women than females.

If Tiago and Zenyatta win both races, Shirreffs and the Mosses will be victorious in the Classic and Ladies Classic. Sort of takes away from the power of the name Classic doesn't it? "Oh, you only won the Classic? Well," I won the Ladies Classic (and with a horse no less) -- twice as many words, must be more important. At least I know what kind of Classic I won. What kind of Classic did you win?" Come on, Breeders' Cup, it's the Distaff, period. Stop thinking so much and leave the darn name alone. If it was good enough for Personal Ensign and Lady's Secret it's good enough now.

I will go into this year's Breeders' Cup with an open mind -- hey, we do have a bunch of turf races. If all the horses come back safely I will be happy, and that will take precedence over the results, the surface, the silly name changes, and the plethora of races, even if many of them do turn out to be meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But after the relief of knowing that all the horses and jockeys have returned sound and healthy, all the other stuff mentioned above will begin to sink in. That's the part I'm not looking forward to.


Leave a Comment:


I couldn't agree more about the absolutely mind-numbing changes taking place in the BC the last two years.  I used to look forward to the BC for months, as each race was loaded with talent.  Now, the races are so watered down, the championship quality is nonexistent.  Let's see, if things had always been this way, the Safely Kept-Dayjur dramatic battle would have NOT happened, as Safely Kept would have been in the distaff/ladies sprint!  Who knows how the sprint that Precisionist won, or the Classic that he ran in and had a great bearing on the outcome as a pacesetter would have unfolded - he wouldn't have run in either, he'd have been in the dirt mile!  No fabulous dash through the mud at Churchill in the sprint for Gulch -nope, wouldn't have been in it - would have been in the dirt mile!  How about the year SKywalker WON the Classic?  Nope, never happened, he would have been in the dirt mile!  I could go on and on about the great things that did happen that woul never have taken place in a current BC format.  I am beginning to lose interest in the entire affair, and I was always a die-hard.  What makes a champion racehorse a champion is trying and achieving the extremely difficult - be it racing against the opposite sex, or trying to stretch out to a tougher distance, or trying to cut back and show brilliance in a sprint - not to be placed perfectly into a slot where they are assured of being in just the right spot.  There are now horses that will run in the BC that have no business being in the BC, it's like expanding the NBA to 50 teams, who wants to watch that?  Change for change sake is foolish - The Breeders Cup was the very best DAY(not days)in racing, why the rush to paint over the Mona Lisa?

09 Jul 2008 11:30 PM


In all you have said about running the BC on a synthetic track not being a fair indication of who is really best, how fair was it to the horses that ran on the soup that was last year's BC?

09 Jul 2008 11:35 PM

I agree with your thoughts on the "Ladies Classic".  How typical in a man's world that they would lump all the filly races on Friday and think it was a good idea.  It is a slap in the face to have the distaff relegated to a supporting position and no longer on the big day.

09 Jul 2008 11:39 PM

I couldn't agree more. More is NOT better. It should have been left to one card of races. Diluting it makes it...well, DILUTED! I would rather see Curlin and BB run in the Arc. Why do we need a two year old turf race, anyway? Too much, too much. Like the Super Bowl in February - too much!

09 Jul 2008 11:40 PM
needler in Virginia

Thanks for this, Steve. It all needed to be said and I must agree on the "Ladies" thing. Female horses have never been called "ladies", so who are they kidding? "Distaff" is a perfectly acceptable description for races run by fillies or mares. As a woman, and a pretty grouchy one at that, I have never wanted to be treated differently from the male of the species. The fact is, I AM different, but all I ask equal.....that's it. By putting the Distaff (I'm with you, Steve!) races on Friday, you are singling the fillies and mares as not quite so important as the males, and therefore UNequal.....after all, THEY are getting Saturday. I know the BC folks didn't mean to make it look this way, but it ME, at least. The implication is that, while TV coverage is in place, the Friday races lack a bit of cache.

Sorry, guys that's the way it looks to this woman. And speaking of the distaff side of things, what's the status of Peppers Pride beating all the boys as she aims for #17??

Signed, Your Favorite Pest in Virginia.

10 Jul 2008 12:41 AM

Another point that is right on the money yet again!

By definition, at least from my understanding, a "lady" is a woman which logically means a "female human being."  A horse is not a lady or a man, just to make mention of another example.  So do we then satisfy the politically correct society by calling it the Filly & Mare Classic?  To be quite honest, it would be too much of a mouthful that I just might lose my stomach by the overhaul of words to describe one race.  As a young "real" lady, political correctness disturbs me, and I believe we should not change tradition and leave it as the Distaff.  It came to be as quite a surprise and an upseting one at that to see the Distaff be renamed as the Ladies Classic.  Coming back from college (where the luxury of the Internet is not accepted in our dorms for educational purposes so we go to the library to suit our Internet needs) and finding this new discovery raised my eyebrows considerably.  Catching up on a lot of things that happened during my first year was a task, but returning home in the summer reading about this made my hopes for this year's Breeders Cup falter.  With the addition of so many races, it is just so hard to keep up.

Speaking about the plethora of races, wouldn't it be considered sexist if all the female races are run on Friday and the male races are run on Saturday?  Call me crazy, but the idea of having all of them run on the same day intrigues me satisfactorily. After all, in the previous runnings of the Breeders Cup, I quite enjoyed the mix, especially when the day wore on with the anticipation, suspense, and drama rising to its climax in the Turf and Classic.  Now, it will be even harder to watch the fillies and mares run especially if I have late classes on that Friday.

Aforementioned are only two bones in the pile that I have to pick with.  Another issue that gets my blood boiling is the synthetic surfaces wheedling its way on our tracks where our true dirt champions and race horses may struggle to run on.  If the New York tracks ban their traditional dirt tracks and yield towards the forceful push for synthetic surfaces, I will forever put an asterisk besides the horse that does win the Triple Crown on that surface.  There will never be another true Triple Crown winner ever again if that happens.  What defines America's racing, aside from the British Triple Crown, is that ours is run on dirt and theirs is run on turf.  So now, do will we call our future Triple Crown winner the Synthetic Triple Crown winner?  To me, that will only mean that if Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park give way to such a demand for synthetic surfaces, the Eleven that did withstand the rigors of the tracks in a 59 year span (from 1919 to 1978), in which the tracks probably changed dramatically over that span of time, mean nothing?  I plead that that does not happen, for the sport's sake and to the racing fans that will not relinquish their love and will stand steadfast to the Sport of Kings.

There are many more issues that get me extremely upset:

1.  Egos from horsemen groups do not help matters at all, pointing to the cases of Ellis Park and Calder Race Course.

2.  Racing should do away with all race-day medications/ drugs/ steroids, etc.  That means all horses must race only on oats, hay, and water.  After all, those latter things are more natural to a horse and healthier for the animal than alien forces.  It just does not make sense why some medications are considered okay here, but others are not over there.  Let us all just make peace and ban all of them once and for all.  That will solve any issues of trainers pumping juice into the poor horse just right under the radar of over dosage.  Especially the issues of trainers of getting caught having a horse under their care carrying in their body the illegal limit/ medication.

3.  "Do as the Romans do," as the saying goes.  Well, I shall rephrase it this way, "Do as the Europeans and Japanese do."  Of course, I am regarding to their rules of jockeys and the trainers.  Make the punishments and penalties as strict as theirs.  That might make our horses be safer, at least, as they have little freedom and little choice as to the way their trainers inject illegal substances into their systems or the way the jockeys overuse the whip in our free country.

4.  PETA needs to turn their heads to more important issues, such as horses being sent to slaughter for consumption.  Then again, they only want to shine in the spotlight and show their big egos when there is an opportunity, especially an opportunity that came in the wake of misfortune.

5.  No one has to mention to me about the poor state of the Breeding Industry.  It saddens me that there seems to be more sprint/ mile races than there are at the true classic distances of a 1 1/4 or a 1 1/2 because of the fact that our breeders breed horses more for speed and greed.  I remember years ago people complained that the Belmont Stakes just had to be shortened because it was just too long.  Now, people say that we should have more races at that distance, especially the top races around the country.  Even the Breeders Cup concurred by adding a so-called "marathon" to their card.  To be quite honest, 1 1/2 miles is not a marathon according to Yeats, the three-peat champion of the Jockey Gold Cup at Royal Ascot run at 2 miles over, and many more outstanding European race horses running currently (Soldier of Fortune and Youmzain to name two).  One last note on this topic, the historic American Jockey Club Gold Cup used to run at 1 1/2 miles from 1976 to 1989 and run at 2 miles from 1921 to about 1975.

I could rant on about many issues but as of right now, catching my breath is better than getting too winded.

To put it simply, there will never be a Secretariat, Lady's Secret, Cigar, Ferdinand, Alysheba, Citation, etc.  Most (what I mean by most I mean pretty much 95%) of the great horses of long ago before the era of Lasix and race-day medication, before the dignity of the horse was never lost for the American Breeders' desire for speed and greed rather than durability and soundness, before the unnatural case of synthetic surfaces (After all, didn't the ancestors and founding sires of the Thoroughbred grow up around dirt and sand?).

But there is always hope, no matter how small the flame might seem in the engulfing flood of darkness.  Someway, somehow we will learn from our mistakes and change things for the better.  It will take time and a great mount of strong patience, but there will be good.  Good days often times come in the wake of bad ones.

10 Jul 2008 12:47 AM

What if Colonel John wins the Swaps, Travers (dirt) and BC Classic then Big Brown loses the Haskell and BC Classic?

10 Jul 2008 1:12 AM

I could not agree more. I've always thought there should be 10 bc races-2yo colt/fillies, sprint males, sprint distaff, Classic, Distaff, Turf, Distaff Turf, Sprint Turf and Steeplechase. A full card on one day. If you are so specialized that you can't fit into one of those categories, you shouldn't be considered for a championship. Eclipse Award for the year's best $50,000 claimer?

10 Jul 2008 1:30 AM

Yeh I don't really understand the name changes... calling the Distaff the "Ladies' Classic" makes it sound less important. Ladies almost sounds tongue in cheek if you say it enough. Distaff meant business... Ladies' sounds like a picnic or tupperware party. haha OK I am getting too into it.

Adding races might not be that bad of an idea if the hope is to draw more international horses into the scene. That is what they should focus on. Start making the "World Championship" part mean something. Shouldn't be like the World Series of Baseball... we need horses from around the globe to keep things interesting.

10 Jul 2008 2:54 AM

Well, just keep jeering and sneering at more horses, I mean they are the ones who pick when where and what they'll run on.

10 Jul 2008 6:30 AM

LOL Funny!  I can almost swallow a "Dirf" champion, but "Latex?!"  Yikes!

10 Jul 2008 8:08 AM

Why don't we just give everyone participation trophies?  Who is the marketing expert behind all of this?

At a time when we need some stars and some good marketing what do we have to sell?  We have the best older horse leaving the country and the best 3 year old making another comeback no one seems to be interested in. Col. John may win another graded stakes along with multiple graded winners Pyro and Smooth Air but few seem to care. Well... let me tell all of you something...hang on to your Breeder's Cup hat because the only thing you may be able to talk about and the only thing they may be able to promote is a rematch between Col  John and Big Brown on Synthetic.  Wow... I don't know about you but that may be the greatest match up since Affirmed vs. Spectacular Bid. am trying to keep a straight I can't do it... watch the turf races and look for strong closers in the sprint and bring a TV to watch Football. Racing and the brilliant people behind it have found a way to make even the "Breeders Cup" boring this year.  See you next year !!! What? Its back here again?


10 Jul 2008 8:27 AM
Turn Back The Alarm

As usual Steve, you got it right!

10 Jul 2008 8:45 AM
Steve Haskin

siegalsam, many horses did not handle the slop last year. but it was a one-year freaky thing and an act of nature, not man-made. RJ, the Travers is the key. He has to win that race on dirt to be considered, and then win the Classic. It's going to take a lot to snatch it away from Big Brown, but I guess a sweep by Colonel John could do it. Btw, the crazy new Eclipse Awards are meant as tongue-in-cheek. This year's BC will not be played on a level field, and there will be some weird results, with many top horses not running well. I'm just poking a little fun at the situation by recognizing the synthetic horses at the end of the year.

10 Jul 2008 9:43 AM

I'm so glad to see the anti-"Ladies Day" sentiments on here. I HATE HATE HATE it- it sounds so stupid, and I actually don't even think that it's a nod to political correctness. If someone walked up to me and said, "Hey lady," I would not react favorably.

So, this is not the first time I've read or written negative comments about the Ladies Day fiasco on here- how do we humble fans tell the powers-that-be that this is an offensive and unpopular idea?

10 Jul 2008 10:57 AM
Kelly S

Steve:  Let me start out by saying thank you for making my morning!!  Today is my Friday, and I couldn't have started it out any better.  That was insightful and hilarious!

Now that I've wiped my tears of laughter away, here's my two cents (for what it's worth.)  I don't so much mind having more Breeder's Cup races, but why on Friday and not Sunday?  If they want to target the larger audience, I would think that a larger portion of the workforce is the Monday through Friday crowd, not the Sunday through Thursday crowd.  Just because the KY Oaks can get away with it doesn't mean they can.  The Oaks is an established race.

My biggest issue:  relegating the female races to Friday.  First off, yes, I am a woman.  I'm not some crazed, bra-burning feminist, but this is insulting!  The best races I've seen this year have been the females, but instead of highlighting them for the general public, we're going to shove them into a day that you know will not get near as many viewers.  As for the "Ladies Classic," it's just icing on the cake.  I know this industry tends to respect males more than females, but this is too much.  Not only are they not important enough to be on Saturday, but let's change the name to a more patronizing one.  Have they watched fillies and mares race?  They are just as rough and tumble as the boys, not lady-like.  Use the name that is grammatically correct, not the flowery one.

Sorry, I really do love horseracing, but man do I wish some of the people involved were more intelligent.  I won't be happy, but I will still watch the Saturday rendition (can't take off work for my girls.)  However, I will certainly let the BC people know my opinion of the new structure and hope next year will be better, even though it'll still be on synthetic.

BTW--I hope Zenyatta runs in the "Gentleman's" Classic and kicks butt!!  :)

10 Jul 2008 11:00 AM
Kelly S

Hey FSF,

I don't know about you, but I am checking out the BC website for an email address to let them know my opinion (in a constructive, semi-nice way.)  I'm not normally the type to write complaint mail, but if we don't tell them, how will they know?

10 Jul 2008 11:03 AM

I have to say I do like some of the changes to the BC but most of them are appalling. Ladies Classic!? Come on! And about the two day thing, I'd rather have them on Saturday and Sunday then at least most people are home. This may not be the BC we all know and love but I think there may be somewhat of a good outcome (no hurt horses) and I always think that if the horse is truly great he/she can run on anything.

10 Jul 2008 11:07 AM

The outcome of the eclipse awards this year will definitely be questioned if any synthetic horses win the award. Cal horses will have the advantage over the east coasters in the BC. The east coasters may not adapt and will perform poorly making it seem that the Cal horses are more talented.  Why not protest and refrain from participating in the event? 2 years in a row is crazy and California is loving it. The PC synthetic people are taking over the sport as they are bowing down to PETA. I'm distraught. Thanks Steve for a great article though.

10 Jul 2008 11:19 AM

"Latex" award made me laugh hard!  I will be one to give a contrarian opinion since everyone is pretty slanted to one side on this issue.  Good points by all.

1.  I like the extra races.  I really like Juvenile Turf and over time it can draw some excellent European talent.  I don't think they need a female and male version of the race though.

2.  I don't like that the BC will be run consecutive years over the same synthetic track.

3.  I also like the Grass Sprint which I think will be exhilirating coming down the hill at SA.  This was long overdue and also might bring in foreign talent.

4.  The Dirt Marathon should be even longer at possibly 1.75 miles but I like the concept as it gives Breeders something else to shoot for and improve the durability of the breed.

5.  I don't like the Dirt Mile.  I agree this waters down the Sprint and Classic.  The host track can offer a G3 undercard race for Dirt Milers without their being a BC Race.

6.  I like the female sprint but think it should be 7F (maybe it is this year) and be worth substantially less then the BC Sprint to still encourage females to take the step up.

7.  Regarding the name change, I like Distaff better then Ladies Classic but since it won't change the quality of horses it doesn't matter to me.  Regarding the move to Friday, I think it may pay off in the end.  I love "Oaks" day at Churchill.  I think they are trying to create a BC brand on Friday and this couldn't be done with some "also-ran" races.  Now with Ladies Day they can create an "Oaks" like environment.

Lots of change fast is scary but some of these changes may work out very nice in the longterm!

10 Jul 2008 11:26 AM
Kevin M

Hey Steve:  I know your blog is still relatively new but you have already opened up a secretariat-type lead in the race for best blog in the business.  Great stuff!  

I hear you on the BC changes it is being watered down big time. I won't bet a dime on the Friday races -- maybe the knuckleheads at the BC will listen to the fan if the "Ladies Day" flops at the windows.

10 Jul 2008 12:01 PM

All I want at this point is to change the darn name back to Distaff! Ladies Classic makes me cringe and Distaff brings back fond memories of horses like Personal Ensign :)

Regardless of all of this...I will be going to both days, flying in from FL for my first BC and I cannot wait!

10 Jul 2008 12:23 PM

p.s. excellent blog as always!!

10 Jul 2008 12:27 PM
Steve Haskin

The reason they can't do a Saturday-Sunday BC is simple: NFL. I like the idea of a Marathon, but 1 1/2 miles is not a marathon. It should be two miles. The Euros would laugh in our face at calling their "classic" distance a marathon. This will also cut into the Classic (a horse like Big Booster could go in either one). I like "Gentlemen's" Classic, Kelly. Good one. I also like the Juvenile Turf for the reasons stated above. The more Europeans the better.

10 Jul 2008 12:29 PM
Rick S

siegelsam, The Monmouth slop was an act of God... Santa Anita's surface is an act of man/woman to try and correct how he/she screwed up the modern day thoroughbred. It should be interesting!

I'll be there this year, and maybe next...

10 Jul 2008 12:40 PM

" This way, we can honor horses like Colonel John, who supposedly love only the feel of balloon fragments under their feet."

Steve, I wish I could write like this.  Your prose is priceless.

10 Jul 2008 1:08 PM
Sam Santschi

They are ruining this idea.  I'll be there Saturday only---all the way from WI but clueless how to bet the "main track" races. Sticking to the turf races only.  I used to love betting fillies and mares in turf (Ridgewood Pearl) and sprint (LaSpia)races. Help!

10 Jul 2008 1:30 PM

Like the Churchill dirt track is the same as the Belmont dirt track. More East Coast bias bitchin and moanin. The East Coast horse people hate coming to California for racing. First the tracks were too hard. Now they are not dirt enough. So the BC is here in California for two years. The East Coast gets it for three straight years and Californians are supposed to take it and accept it. Our horses are never good enough unless we go the East Coast and win a race. Let's be fair. Either all horses have to win on both coasts to be champions or it is not a requirement. I am sick and tired of the fake tears and phony arguments from East Coasters. If you don't like our fake dirt, then keep your horses home and be quiet.

10 Jul 2008 1:56 PM

I think that if California and tracks like Keeneland are synthetic and now NY is looking into it, I think that the whole nation should be synthetic to have true BC winners and not dirt or synthetic specialists (Big Brown, Go Between). Just an idea.

10 Jul 2008 2:27 PM

It bothers me that the synthetics runners are considered inferior. No one said George Washington was an inferior horse when he was taken off the turf to finish out of the money in the BC Classic. Why not run down the horses that can only manage dirt as inferior? Why does Lava Man get denigrated because he can't win outside Cal, yet horses have won championships not leaving New York. Why gripe about horses winning an Eclipse on synthetics when horses have won them with ONE U.S. start (Daylami anyone) or ONE U.S. victory (Lahudood over Nashoba's Key or Precious Kitten? Really?)

As far as moving all the filly/mare races to Friday, boy that chaps my hide. And hey, let's be done with it and add a mile and one-eighth race for the all the horses too slow for a mile and bred too short for a mile and one-fourth

10 Jul 2008 3:59 PM
Julie L.

Thank you GregB, I too live in California and have listened to how the east coast horses are suppose to be better than the west coast horses. Lost in the Fog traveled around the country and won. So did Seabiscuit, Affirmed, Sunday Silence, Alysheba and those horses were considered west coast based runners. If a horse is good it doesn't matter what state they are based in, look at Peppers Pride, she has only run in New Mexico and remains undeated but really gets very little attention. Until she goes east no one will really know of her. And I do get tired of seeing our male horses that ran primarily in California get shipped to Kentucky for stud duty (Tiznow). Would be nice to see some really top ones stay here although we do have our Top Sires List stallions who have done well without getting the "blue hen" mares.

10 Jul 2008 4:08 PM
Julie L.

One more complaint, sorry, they should not have made friday "Ladies Day" the distaff races are just as important. I'm not sure just what the "powers" that be were thinking, why don't they go to the racing fans first to see our reactions and then make a decision. Sounds practical to me.

10 Jul 2008 4:11 PM

What???? Is it true what I am reading here? The "ladies classic" is for horses?? No wonder I was having trouble finding out where to sign up for the race. Time to put the tenny's back in the closet.

Greg B. "Fake" tears from East coasters?? If you can have "fake" dirt, I suppose "fake" tears are o.k. Yes?

10 Jul 2008 4:24 PM

Tiznowbaby: I don't think the issue is synthetic horses being inferior. I think its just a different class of racing. You had dirt and turf runners and now you have synthetic. It adds a different dimension. Are turf horses inferior to dirt horses? No. Their just better at running on turf. Why should a dirt horse have to compete on synthetic to prove anything?

10 Jul 2008 4:29 PM
Julie L.

Karen2: It use to be that a really great horse could run on any and all surfaces, why does a turf horse who has been running better than any dirt horse not get Horse of the Year? That's why the connections of Curlin are doing like the old days giving Curlin a chance to prove that he can run on any surface in any country and win, that is the mark of a truly great racehorse in my personal view. But I am just one old racehorse fan.

10 Jul 2008 4:58 PM
Green Mtn Punter

I say less Breeders Cup, not more, is what racing needs to re-build it's fan base. What is needed is a return to a national handicap circuit, and the other divisions as well, with a "circuit" of Grade I and Grade II stakes which begins in February and ends with the Breeders Cup in late October/early November. The key to the whole thing is to make it possible for a horse to win an Eclipse without winning the Breeders Cup; in that way the racing industry can insure that the best stakes horses are able to train on a schedule and aim for the stakes they need to pile up the points necessary to win an Eclipse. This will remove the Super Bowl, winner-take-all mentality which goes with the present Breeders Cup set-up, a mentality which seems to have the effect of inflating already absurd stud and syndication fees.

10 Jul 2008 4:59 PM
Steve Haskin

To all California racing fans, no one is denegrating racing out there and there is no reason the get defensive. The 2003 BC was a phenomenal day of racing, and Eastern horses have never done well as a whole going out there, regardless of the surface, while California horses do great shipping East. My comments are about the surface, not where that surface is. Keeneland's Polytrack is the worst of the synthetic tracks in my opinion as far as true racing goes. As for the synthetics, if they make racing safer I have nothing against it, except for not being a true gauge of a horse's ability, and not being natural. You cannot believe how many trainers in California have told me about all the hind end injuries and soft tissue injuries their horses are suffering on the Cushion track. This is from the trainers, not me. Right now, dirt and synthetic are causing an inbalance of racing and talent. And dirt is the one we've been breeding horses to run on for 200 years. Now all of a sudden all those years of breeding are being proven meaningless on synthetic tracks. Forget all the Storm Cat and Mr. Prospector blood. Replace it with Dynaformer and Theatrical and Cozzene. Well, you can't forget about it just like that, because 80% of our horses have that blood. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium between racing and safety, and I'm not sure yet what it is. Maybe the breed has gotten too soft from all that speed and 2-year-old sale craziness. I don't know what the answer is. But right now we have two types of horses and racing conflicting with each other.

10 Jul 2008 5:11 PM

It'd be great if Z ran in the classic - the classic classic, not that other nonsense - and kind of redeemed horse racing with a win. Y'know, a filly can beat the boys in a tough, premiere race and not get hurt. I mean, I know that can happen, but the general public might not. It would be good for horse racing.

As far as the Distaff renaming;

it's like universities or high school teams that are the Bucks. Instead of the girl's teams going by 'Does' they often choose 'Lady Bucks.' Does this imply a cross dressing buck? It sounds ridiculous and incorrect.

As far as Polytack Older Horse/etc that sounds like a reasonable solution. It IS after all a different surface, and we DO after all have awards for turf horses singularly.  

10 Jul 2008 5:29 PM


Lava Man, your best horse for a little while from the West coast, came to the East coast and was beaten badly more than once. That says enough about the quality of California horses. They can win in their own state, but anywhere else don't put a bet on 'em. There's a reason why Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Belmont are big names in racing. They get great horses and high quality FULL fields. None of this nonsense 5 horse field grade 1, 2 and 3 races.

The west coast has Del Mar and Santa Anita, and that's it.

It's hard to compare Emerald Downs, Ruidoso and Portland Meadows to Belmont, Churchill, Saratoga, Keeneland and Gulfstream. Delaware and Colonial Downs have their share of quality races themselves, but they're another level.

We have a bases for our whining and if you don't see the inequalities in synthetic surfaces vs dirt then I kind of question your racing knowledge.

10 Jul 2008 5:41 PM

Steve: I had a really good laugh at your blog and have enjoyed your comments!

As for the Ladies' Classic... it sounds like a deoderant brand to me!  Hopefully after this year they'll return to using the more dignified term "Distaff".  

I'll miss seeing the girls run on Saturday, but as a non-bra-burning broad I'll be sure to skip work and tune in!

10 Jul 2008 6:42 PM
Steve Haskin

Kevin, a Secretariat-like lead? Wow, thanks. I would been thrilled with an Affirmed-like lead. I appreciate it.

10 Jul 2008 6:54 PM


Although I agree certain tracks have alot of small fields, your line "There's a reason why Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Belmont are big names in racing. They get great horses and high quality FULL fields. None of this nonsense 5 horse field grade 1, 2 and 3 races" is incorrect because the G1 Acorn only had 4 or 5 horses and the G1 Man o' War has 6 horses.

10 Jul 2008 8:24 PM

Are prominent owners and trainers willing to take their dirt and turf horses to the synthetic Breeders' Cup?

Besides the money, why would they?

They are the ones who could make a difference by not having great contenders in Breeders' Cup so the owners of the event would be forced to gather and consider how not to take the prestige the tournament has earned.

10 Jul 2008 9:20 PM

The "Hangin' With Haskin" blog is one of the best things The Blood-Horse has ever done.

You don't have to wait to get an Eclipse Award Mr. Haskin.

It speaks for itself just to look at how many comments you get the first day your piece of writing is published.

Thanks a lot. All the best.


10 Jul 2008 9:26 PM

Thanks for the blog.  

In the great scheme of things all that really matters is that all of the horses end of healthy.

10 Jul 2008 10:42 PM

Julie L. The really great horses of yesteryear were never tried on sythetic surfaces. Grass and dirt and yes, the real great ones could run well on both. But synthetic is another animal all together. Could Secretariat do well on sythentic?? One will never know but it is a possibility he wouldn't have. Correct me if I am wrong but has Curlin proven himself on synthetic?  I don't even like to watch a race on synthetic. I just don't get it.

10 Jul 2008 11:27 PM
Steve Haskin

That's so nice of you, Mercedes. Thank you very much. I never submit anything for awards; comments from readers (pro and con) are all the awards I need.

11 Jul 2008 10:31 AM

Secretariat could do anything.  There is no doubt he would have been fine.  He was fine when he went over to the grass. When you're great, you're great. Unless you had seen Secretariat in person to witness the aura of his greatness, I imagine it would be difficult to understand just how flawless he was.  The red machine was perfect at anything he did, and I have no doubt he would have burned up the synthetic tracks with no problem. It must be hard for the younger generation to comprehend just how gifted this horse was. If you weren't alive back then when he was racing to see the greatness, you will never understand no matter who explains it to you.  This horse was simply a phenomenon, and could do anything.

11 Jul 2008 11:14 AM

FormerFan: I love Secretariat and although I was young, I have read everything on him and watched every race replay a million times. I meant no disrespect to Big Red. You will never hear any disrespect out of my mouth regarding him. I will take it as a compliment that I am considered part of the "younger" generation as I am in my 40's. My point was regarding the synthetic surface. Secretariat was superior in every way but to be sure he would run well on synthetic is pure speculation. I have heard its like running in sand with rubber added in. It is fair to say that even the most superior horses would/could dislike that surface and not do well on it. This is just my opinion.

I am excited for the Man O'War. I love Curlin but I also love Better Talk Now so it is hard for me to decide who to cheer for.

11 Jul 2008 12:51 PM
Butterfly Warrior

I didn't know the "Ladies Classic" was being pulled off of Saturday and moved to Friday! Maybe it's just me but the Distaff race has always been one of my favorites.

Can you imagine Personal Ensign running down the Kentucky Derby winning filly, Winning Colors at the wire to retire undefeated on a FRIDAY?!

What about One Dreamer's wire to wire and other thrilling upsets?

Why are all the distaff races on Friday, when most people can't see them? I never thought female horses could be victims of second-class treatment and sexism but I guess I'm wrong.

I'm boycotting if they don't put the DISTAFF Classic back where it belongs-on Saturday.

11 Jul 2008 12:52 PM
Julie L.

Karen2 - actually, I think, but not positive that Curlin may have run once on synthetic and did not do well but one should not give up on trying it again. I'm not really sure yet where I stand on synthetic tracks and must admit that I am partial to dirt tracks. As for horses of yesteryear not running on synthetic my point was  that at the time it was desireable for horses to be able to handle both dirt and turf as that showed a truly versitile animal but for whatever reason in this country turf racing has never been as popular as dirt racing maybe it's because too many equate it to european style horseracing, what a shame as I find turf racing as exciting as dirt. Then again it's all about the horse really.

11 Jul 2008 3:48 PM

I TOTALLY agree with the guy who wrote this. What kind of name is Ladies' Classic? Ladie's Day is very stupid and sexist, moving the best fillies and mares (not ladies) to a day where no one but racing fans care. Why did the Breeder's Cup even add all of these stupid new races? The Breeder's Cup was doing well, and they added six divisions that nobody cares about. Also, now older horses can run in the Classic, the Dirt Mile, or the Marathon. Plus, there will never be another European Juvenile winner because of the Breeder's Cup Juvinile Turf. What happened to the days of waiting all year for one day, 7/8 races with the best horses in the country going nose to nose. Now it is spread out over 2 days, with 14 races, a "Ladies Day" and way too much hype. It is no longer a championship event, it is just a money machine.

11 Jul 2008 4:11 PM

steve i love your blogs and the insight and i do agree that changing the name of the race doesn't make sound more interesting. last year was my first breeders cup that i attended and what breeders cup it was. after such a wonderful breeders cup last years they are going to have two years in the row in santa anita, that sucks. now as for coronel john having a shot at 3yrs old championship i don't see it happening he will have to win the travers and classic convincingly like by 8 or 10 furlong each, but why we should put him like runner up to big brown because he won the santa anita derby come one, what about smooth air he is doing well and Pyro he is at shoudly is going to be the first to get a shot at big brown at the haskell. their is any way that you could see pyro winning the 3yr old championship and what i'm really looking foward is to see a rematch between pyro and war pass and a match between war pass and big brown. finaly Student councel is winning the classic.

12 Jul 2008 10:11 AM

what has happened to the green


12 Jul 2008 4:32 PM

Love that drive by Better talk now. To bad it was just a little late. Curlin was under a strong drive but just not good enough today to beat Red Rock. I think this will change Curlin's path. I also think had the race been a little longer, Better talk now wouldv'e caught Curlin. What was with the speed duel? They set suicidel fractions.  Gotta love Proud Spell. She is one classy "lady" LOL.

12 Jul 2008 7:15 PM

have anybody check the breeders cup sprint devision it looks like the best out there right now, this horse are running like they are prepering for the classic.come breeders cup day it will be a dream fill with benny the bull, JBK, the argetinian horse thar reminds me of invasor, i think his name is something Island, and others that are coming along. i'm really looking foward to see this one, is like last year classic field, full of really good contenders.

12 Jul 2008 8:11 PM

Curlin seemed like a different horse to me today. He definately didn't seem like the game horse he was in the Belmont. Maybe he didn't care for the turf. He even broke slow. I hope this has the Curlin camp re-thinking the Arc. They sure would have their work cut out for them if they decided to still go in that direction. Not that I thought Curlin ran horrible today, but just didn't seem to be the Curlin we have been seeing. Maybe he just had an off day.

12 Jul 2008 9:42 PM

Is Curlin running in the BC, I thought that subject was tabled.

12 Jul 2008 11:33 PM

maybe Curlin simply is a very good horse rather than a world beater. the Arc? not really his league in my opinion. stick to US and similar dirt tracks.

13 Jul 2008 3:06 AM


The Green Monkey was retired and will enter stud next year at Hartley/DeRenzo in Florida.

13 Jul 2008 11:16 AM
Matthew W

It's too bad a nice horse like Col John loses the Ky Derby and gets labeled as a "Poly track runner" as if he could'nt win on the dirt--heck, it was The Derby, he had a ton of trouble and he never was gonna beat Big Brown--just don't like the "conclusion drawing" around here--like now Curlin can't turf cuz he gets 2nd vs a stellar field--I thought both Col John and Curlin looked a bit "off", especially Curlin, who almost dwelt at the break (Durkin said he broke fine)--Santa Anita played out like a tight turf course this Winter---both Big rown and Curlin should love the track, and we know Heatseeker, Georgie Boy, Go Between, Col John like it so anchors away baby!! As far as Zenyatta in the Classic--not in this lifetime would she ever beat those guys--no, better to try and beat Ginger Punch and Hystericalady, and that's a dream race in it's own right....just stop it with the track surfaces--poly or not, I've heard for DECADES about the track surfaces in the West vs the East and vice versa--enough!! I never said Mineshaft or Invasor were overated cuz they didn't do it in the West, and I don't expect it will be too hard to pick an exacta box were Curlin/Big Brown hook up at Santa Anita for the Classic--LIKE THEY SHOULD!!! The fact it, and always has been, you need to prove it on the racetrack, wherever it's run---West coast horses have ALWAYS had to prove it back East--Lava Man never did, nor did Best Pal, and they never got to see the monster kick of Flying Paster--that's racing. What I mean to say is this: DUCK the Breeders Cup for reasons of track surface--AND YOU SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES AT ECLIPSE TIME---that should be the clarion call---racing needs to stay united where it still can, let them decide it on the racetrack, let them know the importance of Big Brown v Curlin and no more excuses...Curlin doesn't want the BC Classic cuz Tiznow already won two? What's wrong with being compared with Tiznow??? Ask Sackee and Giants Causeway what they thought of that great "dinosaur head" of Tiznow, looking them back for as long as it took---no, if Curlin wins a second Classic it will be against an even better field than last years and that's saying enough to warrant all-time greatness---racing, and that's you and I, Steve, needs to say in no uncertain terms: there are some things that transend the dollars and cents of the sport, and The Sport Of Kings warrants NOTHING LESS...than Big Brown v Curlin....

14 Jul 2008 1:20 PM

Perhaps it's time for racing to do what they always should have done.

Start using a weighted point system as part of the year end award consideration.

18 Aug 2008 1:24 PM

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